Let’s face it – we’re all exhausted. Some days it may seem daunting just to lift your instrument up to your shoulder or pull out your piano books for another practice session. Through the lens of musicians at the Brevard Music Center Summer Institute & Festival, here are five ways to lift your spirits and reconnect with music-making.
Have Something to Look Forward To
The past two years have been marked by cancellations, modifications, and inconsistencies, especially for young musicians. Many of us have lost the social aspect of making music with others. Even if you don’t feel like it right now, consider applying for a summer festival this year to invest in yourself and give yourself something to look forward to.
At Brevard and similar summer festivals, you’re going to get to do all of the things you couldn’t do consistently over the past two years. There are programs with music of all types, including orchestra, jazz, chamber, solo, piano, and opera. You’ll play great music, but also hear it around you all the time, everywhere. With all summer music faculty, students, and staff on campus, you’ll also experience the joy of community, of being around lots of people who care about the same thing you do.
This kind of music-making is invigorating, but also hard to replicate at home. Do yourself a favor and explore the summer music offerings around you, then mark your calendar and start counting down!
Get Back to the Basics
Raise your hand if you’ve been neglecting your scales and etude books… but don’t worry, you aren’t alone. It is hard to stay motivated when lessons and rehearsals have been so disrupted. Reconnecting with your open strings, long tones, or basic vocal exercises can help reinforce your foundation, strengthening you physically and mentally. If you are already working on a particular piece, you can also break it apart into mini etudes for yourself.
Summer festivals like Brevard also contain all of the things that give us structure in our music-making, with a regular schedule, time to practice, weekly lessons, and consistent rehearsals. You have tons of time to rebalance your playing, from covering the basics in sectionals and studio classes to pushing yourself in masterclasses and performances.
Go into Nature
Thanks to super busy schedules and super enticing technology, a lot of us have forgotten how to spend time with ourselves and just be alone in nature. It is important to get rest – but we mean real rest, like “no screens” rest. Prioritizing time every day to walk through your neighborhood or around campus can make a huge difference for your mental health. Start off distraction-free while focusing on your surroundings, and let your thoughts wander. If you’re short on time and heading to the practice room, try streaming something by your favorite musician to help get in the mood and avoid distractions from everyday life.
Here in Brevard, it is easy to walk through the trees or pause for a few minutes by the lake. Our 180-acre campus is situated in Western North Carolina, surrounded by the Pisgah National Forest and Blue Ridge Mountains. Everything on campus is in the woods, including the practice rooms, performance halls, dorms, and teaching studios. You might have to get a little more creative in your hometown, but take this as a challenge to find something that works for you!
Find the Joy
When’s the last time you played or sang along to a Disney song or pop song? When’s the last time you thought about the first piece you ever played – we’re talking things like Twinkle, Twinkle – and thought about how far you’ve come? And, what do you really enjoy playing?
Grab a friend who plays another instrument and sight-read some fun tunes. Prepare a small program for your neighbors, or download free scores online and organize a chamber music sight-reading party. Summer festivals offer a lot of structure, but also plenty of downtime to explore music-making from all angles. Whatever you choose to do, have fun with it and remember why you started playing in the first place.
Be Inspired by Others
It’s hard not to be inspired by an exhilarating soloist or performance, and that kind of inspiration will stick with you for years to come. Put yourself in situations where you get to experience awe-inspiring performances along with friendships, networking, and that special kind of camaraderie that comes from being with fellow musicians.
Youth orchestras, virtual events, and summer festivals all offer opportunities like this. Each week at Brevard Music Center includes famous guest artists, soloists, and conductors, studio classes and masterclasses, solo and chamber music performance opportunities, off-campus activities, and live performances nearly every day of the week.
Don’t give up. The past two years have been tough, which makes it even more important to take time out for yourself. Whether it’s connecting with the basics, nature, or the simple joys of music-making, we hope these ideas help keep you refreshed and inspired this year and beyond.